I should have seen it coming. I mean, to a certain extent I did see it coming. I’m talking, of course, about the ‘entitlement’ argument. Because, in case you haven’t had it hammered into you via years of millennial ‘think’ pieces about everything from house prices to education, everyone born between 1980 and five minutes ago is "entitled".
A quick rewind: last week we published this story. ‘I Refuse To Feel Guilty For Torrenting Game Of Thrones’. It struck a chord.
Context: as a result of licensing agreements, the only way Australian consumers are able to legally watch Game of Thrones at the same time as the rest of the world is via Foxtel. Literally the cheapest way to do this is by subscribing to Foxtel Play for $30 a month. This is considered a ‘deal’ by Foxtel; a one-time only offer.
Foxtel Play, in my experience, was a sub-standard, sub-HD experience. I once watched a movie using Foxtel Play and gave up halfway through because the app had crashed five times. This, combined with the incredible difficulty I had actually paying for the service in the first place, had left me pretty bummed on the idea of paying Foxtel a meaty monthly fee to watch the one show they were holding hostage. The end result: I refuse to feel guilty for torrenting Game of Thrones.
The vast majority of feedback to the article was positive, but there was some resistance — probably best (and most fairly) exemplified by this Alex Kidman piece (not to be confused with Lifehacker's ex-editor. This is his brother.) Probably worst exemplified by random strangers on the internet tweeting me with the "you wouldn’t steal a car" gambit.
But everyone, and I mean everyone, who disagreed with me used some form of the word ‘entitled’.
Entitlement: it’s such a loaded term. In the past five years it’s been used by old men telling young people they can’t buy houses, get an education without putting themselves into crippling debt or find a job after getting the degree they couldn’t afford.
This time they’re using it to defend draconian licensing systems that don’t make sense in the year 2016.
But there are a few key differences here.
Prime among them: unlike housing, education and jobs young people already have liquid access to Game of Thrones. This is just a reality of living in the present tense. We’re not ‘entitled’ to Game of Thrones, we already have it. If we want we can download it. Easily. For free. That is a reality. “You wouldn’t steal a car”. No probably not, but last time I checked it wasn’t possible to download a car, consequence free, on the internet. Last time I checked downloading a copy of a digital product didn’t involve stealing something directly from another human being.
The content is literally at our fingertips.
The genie is out of the bottle and, no matter how hard Foxtel tries, we can’t squash it back in and pretend it’s 1995.
It’s 2016. Netflix exists. We already have free and easy access to near limitless amounts of television, music, any type of media we decide to watch. This is the reality Foxtel is fighting against, we’re not difficult children sitting on the naughty step screaming for the toy we can’t have – we already have the toys. We have all of the toys.
And here’s the incredible part: we want to pay. We don’t have to pay. We could keep quiet, continue torrenting Game of Thrones without consequence, but we want to pay.
The only thing we feel ‘entitled’ to is the ability to pay a fair, reasonable price for a service that works, without being tied to this broader service that, firstly, we don’t want and, secondly, doesn’t actually work that well — if at all. At its best Foxtel Play is not comparable to the pirated product. If we’re going to pay exorbitant, unrealistic amounts of money for a product it should, at the very least, be the best possible version of that product. Surely.
We want to pay. We already pay. We subscribe to services, we buy merchandise, we attend conventions, we buy the Blu-rays, we buy the movie tickets. It’s been proven, time and time again, that people who torrent spend more on media than those who do not. We are not entitled. We’re the reason this content exists to begin with.
Draconian licensing agreements like the one currently in place for Game of Thrones affect everyone. They are simply not helpful.
They don’t support the creators. They actively deny us the ability to pay creators directly for the products they create.
And they don’t help consumers, who are being asked to pay unfair amounts for sub-standard quality content on a service we’re being forced to endure.
This is not about entitlement. This is about being given the ability to pay a fair price for content in a timely fashion. We are being denied that.